Grant programme of €8bn-plus could start this year


SCIENCE FOUNDATION IRELAND:AN IMPORTANT new research funding programme is under development that will see scientists who fail to win support when applying to the European Research Council being able to receive funding from Science Foundation Ireland.

Details of the programme emerged yesterday during an event at the European Commission office where the new €8.1 billion research grant fund was being discussed. During questions a number of scientists commented on fears that funding might not be offered to those pursuing fundamental research.

The foundation’s director general, Dr Mark Ferguson, then described the new funding proposal that was still being formulated, in co-operation with the heads of Ireland’s universities.

Scientists applying for the difficult-to-acquire European Research Council grants who manage to get through all of the assessments but in the end do not receive funding will be able to access foundation funding without further assessment, Dr Ferguson said.

The support would be provided over a year or longer, and during that time the foundation would also help the researcher to reapply for council support.

The proposed programme also has an international dimension and is applicable to researchers in a similar position no matter where they are based.

Having been turned down by the council, if scientists could link with a hosting institution in Ireland and were willing to conduct their research here, then foundation funding would also be available to them on the same basis as to Irish scientists.

Dr Ferguson believes it could open up a new source of highly qualified and motivated scientists who would then be able to work and contribute expertise here. The programme could be up and running by the end of the year if agreement can be reached, he added.